[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
ARCHIVED  April 1, 1997

City, county agencies prevent business blunders

At their best, economic-development programs and small-business development centers show new and potential new business owners the ropes, and skip commentary on the new idea.

“You could tell somebody they’re clueless with their driveup coffee-shop idea, but who’s to say they won’t set everybody back on their heels?´ said Joe Pariseau, associate director of the Small Business and International Development Center at Front Range Community College. “There are amazing folks here in Northern Colorado. They never give up.”

Pariseau works with nine different cities locally.

Economic-development programs and small-business development centers can slow someone’s poorly crafted plans to a screeching halt by helping them see they aren’t suited for the business they want to start or that something is wrong with their location, or that they simply need to learn more before going forward. But even discouraging a business owner, Pariseau said, can help.

“We’re small-business advocates, but if we can stop someone from making a mistake, we’ll do it in a heartbeat,” Pariseau said.

Economic-development programs usually assist established companies, while small-business development centers help potential business owners get their start. County-based programs are particularly strong where the cities are smaller, as in parts of Weld County.

City-based groups are stronger in larger cities such as Fort Collins, Longmont, Greeley and Loveland. Typical services provided by economic-development programs and small-business development centers include help with business plans, assistance from current or retired industry experts, information on how to obtain loans, demographic information, low-cost seminars and startup counseling.

“I and my staff provided 1,036 counseling sessions last year,´ said Kathy Kregel of the Loveland Center for Business Development. “We spend most of our time in one-on-one counseling on anything from how to start a new business to ‘I don’t understand my financial statement.’ We see the average person about 3 times.”

Working with small businesses in Loveland, Kregel provides all the typical services but targets women and minority business owners with a microloan program. Backed by a bank account funded by five local banks and the city, users can borrow as little as $7,000 and as much as $25,000.

Business-assistance centers are usually set up in small, sparsely staffed offices where directors or vice presidents aren’t above answering their own phones or typing their own memos. At the same time, they may be trying to reach a speaker for a business workshop, checking on permit regulations for new construction and collecting information for a news letter or speech,

The Economic Development Association of Longmont and the Loveland Economic Development Council both concentrate on existing businesses. Wendy Nasziger is EDAL’s vice president. Don Churchwell is executive director for the Loveland Economic Development Council.

Business owners in Loveland and Longmont took to their respective organizations for expansion sites, help untangle government regulatory issues and tax breaks and for any industry information pertaining to the vitality of the business community. EDAL is promoting Longmont industries at the Rocky Mountain Industry Expo at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver April 20, 23 and 24.

Churchwell said he acts as a go-between for companies and Realtors.

“We try to be the focal point rather than have the businesses be bothered by Realtors,” Churchwell said. “Sometimes businesses want to keep the (relocation) information confidential.”

EDAL is funded by Longmont, Boulder County and individual investors who don’t have to contribute a set amount. The Loveland Center for Business Development is funded solely by contributions. Churchwell said the organization dropped any government funding two years ago in order to be independent of political issues.

Some business-assistance centers, while serving in all the usual capacities, provide special services.

Russell Disberger, director of the Small Business Development Center at Aims Community College in Greeley, said his background in product evaluation and commercialization of a new invention/product and technology will help to define this center.

Disberger, who became director in June, also plans to begin a weekly call-in radio show on small businesses, create a Web page by April to match up entrepreneurs and investors and to increase the number of Weld County’s SCORE (Senior Corps of Retired Executives) volunteers to assist with small-business workshops.

By May, Disberger will spend most of his time in the Aims Continuing Education Center’s new building at 5590 11th St. Besides offices and classrooms, the new building will include an entrepreneurial/business incubator where several rooms with office equipment will be available for rent for groups of business people to meet and mentor each other.

A kind of bread-and-butter activity of small-business development centers is arranging instruction for potential business owners on how to write a business plan. The outcome of that lesson is a key step in owning a business because banks won’t make business loans without a plan, and they may loan more with a professional-looking plan.

“It can make the difference if you are coming across to the bank like a pro, or like someone who put something together over the kitchen table,” Pariseau said.

For existing businesses whose owners need help with expansion, entrepreneurial programs are offered. Specific dates, times and cost are available through the chamber of commerce in most cities. Pariseau, through the Small Business International Development Center at Front Range Community College, teaches several new business workshops in his territory a month. Front Range Community College also provides classes on importing, exporting and international marketing,

The Greeley/Weld Economic Development Action Partnership Inc. is unique in that it offers business help throughout Weld County.

“There are 27 small incorporated towns in Weld County,´ said Jodi Hartmann, EDAP vice president. “The vast majority doesn’t have staff or budget to deal with the big companies coming in. We get the county and the cities to work cooperatively.”

Industrial recruitment and existing industries are the main focuses of EDAP. But EDAP, as the enterprise-zone administrator for its area, also determines businesses’ eligibility for state income tax credits. Demographic information and a revolving loan program are available through EDAP.

Cheyenne LEADS is a private, nonprofit company that helps telecommunication companies, manufacturers and mail-order businesses, and other primary industries relocate, find land or buildings or go through the city’s permitting process if new construction is planned.

Jack Crews, president of Cheyenne LEADS, said he also helps coordinate employee training with Laramie County Community College. These are free services.

“Our payoff is in the creation of new jobs,” Crews said.

Bob Boysen, president of the Laramie Economic Development Corp. has a similar focus.

“We graduate thousands of students each year, and we want them to stay and add to the state’s economy.” he said.

Along with the typical help programs, Boysen maintains a list of 200 members, whose occupations range from housewives to company VIPs.

“A lot of people think our purpose is to help businesses make more money,” he said, “But our members contribute to the quality of life through bringing better employment opportunities and getting the people who are here more productive.”

At their best, economic-development programs and small-business development centers show new and potential new business owners the ropes, and skip commentary on the new idea.

“You could tell somebody they’re clueless with their driveup coffee-shop idea, but who’s to say they won’t set everybody back on their heels?´ said Joe Pariseau, associate director of the Small Business and International Development Center at Front Range Community College. “There are amazing folks here in Northern Colorado. They never give up.”

Pariseau works with nine different cities locally.

Economic-development programs and small-business development centers can slow someone’s poorly crafted plans to a screeching halt by helping…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]